Zimbabwe agrees to UN aid for demolition victims

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s government has decided to accept a United Nations offer to build emergency shelter for victims of its demolitions campaign, scrapping its previous refusal of the aid, a UN official said on Tuesday.

“We received a letter which conveys the wish of the gov

ernment for the UN to proceed with phase one of the shelter programme,” said the official, who asked not to be named.

Under the first phase, the United Nations is to build 2 500 units for Zimbabweans left homeless after their shacks were destroyed in the campaign from May to July.

The United Nations had offered the aid, fearing that the plight of the homeless would worsen with the onset of the rainy season.

But UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in late October expressed dismay after Zimbabwe turned down the UN offer to help build temporary shelter for victims of the demolition blitz, saying it preferred help to build permanent homes.

The overall UN aid offer would involve the construction of 20 000 temporary housing units at a cost of about $18-million, according to the official.

Zimbabwe on May 18 launched what it called an urban renewal campaign, razing shacks, homes, small businesses and market stalls in shantytowns and other poor urban areas amid severe food and fuel shortages.

A UN report said the demolitions had left 700 000 people homeless or without sources of income, or both, in cities and towns across the country while a further 2,4-million were affected in varying degrees.

But Zimbabwean authorities blasted the UN report saying it was biased against the government and exaggerated the number of people affected. — Sapa-AFP

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